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CPSC Bans Extremely Flammable Contact Adhesives

Release Date: December 09, 1977

 A serious cause of burn injuries and deaths will be removed soon from the consumer marketplace under a nationwide ban of extremely flammable contact adhesives sold in larger than one-half pint containers. The ban was approved today by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Extremely flammable contact adhesives, popular for their quick-drying properties, have a flashpoint at 20°F or below. Because they contain high concentrations of highly flammable solvents which evaporate quickly, the products covered by the ban can ignite explosively or cause flash fires.

Since 1970, CPSC has learned of 130 burn injuries, including 15 deaths, from fires or explosions of these products. Average burns were severe, covering about 40 percent of the body and requiring an initial hospital stay of approximately 50 days, almost double that required for all burn victims treated in special burn-care facilities. Residential property losses reported ranged from $20,000- $75,000.

Used primarily to bond plastic laminates to counters and table tops, to glue tile boards to walls, and to put down flooring, extremely flammable contact adhesives comprised about 80 percent of all contact adhesive sales in 1976. Since then, a less flammable, petroleum-solvent-based contact adhesive has been developed and there has been a move away from the extremely flammable adhesives. CPSC estimates that there are currently only one-half to one-million gallons of extremely flammable contact adhesives in the distribution chain, which is about one-half to two-thirds of previous normal levels.

Extremely flammable contact adhesives can bond metal, wood, leather, linoleum, tile, rubber, and plastic. They are sometimes used in furniture construction and repair.

S. John Byington, CPSC Chairman, said that the ban is necessary "because currently required cautionary labeling clearly wasn't doing an adequate job in protecting consumers from an unreasonable risk of injury."

"Even if consumers heeded the directions," Byington said, "they would have no reason to expect that oven pilot lights, electric space heaters, sparks from a refrigerator motor, or water heater or furnace pilot lights could set off an explosion or start a fire resulting in grievous injuries or even death."

In one accident reported to CPSC, an injury occurred when the vapor train from a contact adhesive container was ignited by a pilot light one floor below.

While the ban is not expected to affect the availability of contact adhesives, substitute adhesives cost about $l-$6 more per gallon than extremely flammable types.

The ban will not apply to products sold exclusively for industrial or professional use.

The ban is staggered: 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, manufacturers of the extremely flammable adhesives may no longer produce or distribute them in commerce, and 180 days after publication all other distribution and retail sales must halt. The Federal Register notice will be published shortly.

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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